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Atlanta active in the early days of free agency

Bill Shanks talks about the moves the Falcons have made so far.


ALEX MACK - A+

This is just a home run, a perfect fit, a 10. However you want to label it, this could not be a better investment. Sure, the Falcons could have signed Ben Jones and saved the extra money for other needs, but how can you complain about the Falcons getting the best offensive lineman on the market? You can't. This position has been a black hole for three years, since the forced retirement of Todd McClure. Joe Hawley, Peter Konz, James Stone, Mike Person and Gino Gradkowski have been the revolving door of players that failed at center. It was time for the Falcons to find someone that could provide stability and consistency to the position and also leadership for the offensive line. Mack checks every box and is a great fit. 

DERRICK SHELBY - B

The 27-year-old Shelby seems like a good addition for the defensive line. He's known more for his run defense, but there are signs with more playing time he can be better against the quarterback. Shelby had a more significant role last year in Miami and had 3.5 sacks in his 16 games (nine starts). The Falcons complimented this move with the return of Adrian Clayborn and they are still going after Chris Long, so they are trying to improve the pass rush by getting multiple options. Shelby seems ready for more responsibility and he'll likely get it under Dan Quinn. This move is getting positive reviews from many analysts, and it does seem like a good deal for the Falcons.

ADRIAN CLAYBORN - B

The Falcons brought Clayborn in last year on a one-year contract, as he was coming off an injury-plagued season in Tampa Bay. Clayborn stayed healthy for Atlanta and played in all 16 games, with four starts. He had three sacks, 15 quarterback hits and played well at defensive end. For a two-year contract, the Falcons got a good deal to bring Clayborn back. He'll be 28 this season and there's little doubt the Falcons can use him more if he's healthy. Yes, it's good to have Clayborn back.

MATT SCHAUB - B

The Falcons wanted to improve the backup quarterback position, which is smart with Matt Ryan getting older. Schaub is now a veteran with several years as an experienced starter at quarterback, so he fits the bill. Quinn said Schaub will battle with Sean Renfree for the position, but expect Schaub to get the job. With teams investing more in the backup quarterback position, it is smart for the Falcons to get someone who could step in if Ryan gets injured and be decent. Is Schaub the best choice? Well, he's a good choice. The Falcons didn't need to make a Chase Daniels-type investment here.

MOHAMED SANU - B-

Yes, the Falcons likely gave Sanu too much. But the team needed a new number two receiver with the release of Roddy White. The Falcons seem comfortable to invest in Sanu, who seems ready to take that next step after being the number three receiver in Cincinnati. He's a tall kid with good numbers after the catch, but can he get separation from the defender before the pass in made? Sanu is a good player, but the development of Justin Hardy may prove whether Sanu must be great for the Falcons or if good is good enough. It's a lot of money, but the Falcons seem comfortable with Sanu being the new compliment to Julio Jones. The money is high, which makes it risky. But obviously Sanu had numerous teams after him, so the Falcons had to pay to compete to get him under contract.

SEAN WEATHERSPOON - F

I don't get this. He couldn't stay healthy when he was here before, and now the Falcons are bringing Weatherspoon back? Quinn likes him, and coaches like to get players they like on their roster, but we've just been down this road before. If this causes the Falcons to not get James Laurinaitus, this will be even more of a mistake. Weatherspoon does not need to have a big role on this team, so if the thought is to have him as a reserve maybe this won't be too bad. But this is a player that has failed to show he can stay healthy. Quinn must believe he can at least be a contributor, but count many as being skeptical.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Falcons still need another pass rusher (Chris Long?), more linebackers (Jerrell Freeman or Laurinaitus?), a safety (Reggie Nelson?) and an offensive guard in free agency. They have money left under the cap, so expect the team to be active in the next week with more visits to Flowery Branch. The Falcons have done a decent job so far in improving the talent level on the roster, but there is more work to be done even before the draft. If they can get these needs filled, the draft will provide depth and make it a very productive offseason.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.


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